Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Rumi's Stretcher

Last night I was wandering around the house, which I do now and then, when a line from Rumi’s “Zero Circle” came to mind: “Then a stretcher will come from grace to gather us up.” I don’t think Rumi was specifically addressing grief, but his words have useful insights.

The poem starts: “Be helpless, dumbfounded, / Unable to say yes or no.” 
This pretty much sums up our state of mind when grief begins. We no longer know what we think or feel, and we can’t make up our minds about even simple decisions.

I like Rumi’s assurance that grace will come into our pain if we allow it. But first we have to acknowledge that we are feeling pain, that we are not okay, and that we could use some help. Much of the time we hide our grief so well that it’s invisible and people can’t tell if we’re grieving by looking at us. But inside we feel beaten up and battered down like we’ve been mugged. Which we have. We've been mugged by Death.

Once we acknowledge pain, then we have to allow grace in and let it begin working in us. Trusting is hard, because a lot of our trust was destroyed by the capriciousness of death. I also like the image of us being in such bad shape that a stretcher is needed.

The second stanza challenges us to see the Beauty in what is happening. This is big B Beauty, a philosophical term for purity of experience, and it can take us a long time to see this in grief.

Is there any beauty to be found in grief? As hard as this moment is, how yanked out of the ordinary it seems, this moment sets us in the wilderness where we can see reality clearly without blinders or filters. We can see into the intensity of grief and its purity. But is there beauty in this? The beauty I found was in the compassion of others who came and helped me deal with grief.
Now here is where it gets tricky. If we say that we see grief clearly, that we understand everything grief is saying, then we lie, because we cannot fully comprehend anything absolute like grief, let alone see it. But we can see part of the way in. What is more important is to realize that every moment in grief presents us with a door that we either open into a deeper understanding, or we close on the opportunity.
If someone we love dies, and we say that we don’t need to grieve, then we have already shut the door and understand nothing.

If we aren’t sure what grief is doing, the third stanza says, then there is hope for us because we are still searching and making our way across the wilderness. This is how we live with grief, by stepping forward into what we don’t understand and learning from what it shows us.

The last line of the poem holds another surprise, that if we surrender to grief, if we let grief guide us over its strange landscape, if we accept what has happened, then we can become a great kindness to others. 

What this means is that if we are honest in our struggles with grief and share this with others, if we trust grief to lead us on a path that is still unfolding, if we let people of compassion come and tend to our hearts, then grace will re-open our lives and the sea of love will flood in.

But first we have to acknowledge that we need a stretcher.

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